KidsMD Health Topics

Our Health Topics

Scarlet Fever

  • Overview

    Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a contagious infection caused by the same bacteria that causes strep throat. In some cases, if your child has strep throat, she may also develop scarlet fever. In addition to your child not feeling well, scarlet fever also results in a fine, "sandpaper-like" rash that consists of small, red bumps.

    • commonly occurs between the ages of 2 and 10
    • spread from direct contact with a child who is infected
    • rash shows up one to two days after infection
    • antibiotics can treat the infection
    • children with scarlet fever should stay home for 24 hours after starting antibiotics

    Children's Hospital Boston
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-7701
     fax: 617-730-0505

  • In-Depth

    What is scarlet fever?

    Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a contagious infection caused by the same bacteria that causes strep throat. In some cases, if your child has strep throat, she may also develop scarlet fever. In addition to your child not feeling well, scarlet fever also results in a fine, "sandpaper-like" rash that consists of small, red bumps.

    What causes scarlet fever?

    Scarlet fever is caused by toxins that are produced by bacteria. It's usually associated with a strep infection (like strep throat). It may also be associated with wounds or burns that become infected. It is spread from direct contact with a child who is infected, usually through coughs, sneezes or sharing food or drink.

    Is scarlet fever common?

    Scarlet fever most commonly occurs between the ages of 2 and 10.

    What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?

    Before the rash develops, scarlet fever can cause a variety of symptoms in your child including:

    • fever
    • sore throat
    • chills
    • headache
    • vomiting
    • stomach ache
    • coated white tongue

    The rash begins about one to two days after the initial infection. The red, fine, "sandpaper-like" rash is usually found on the neck, forehead, cheeks and chest and then may spread to the arms and back. The rash usually begins to fade after three to four days.

  • Tests

    How does a doctor know that it's Scarlet fever?

    The rash of scarlet fever is unique and may be recognized by your child's doctor. In addition, your child's doctor may order a throat swab to confirm the diagnosis of strep throat as the source of the scarlet fever.

  • Treatment for scarlet fever is the same as for strep throat. It's important not to send your child back to school or daycare until she has been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours. Also, be sure to notify others who may have been exposed.

    Traditional treatments for scarlet fever

    Your child's doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. Other treatment options may include:

    • warm saline mouth gargles (to relieve the sore throat)
    • increased fluid intake
    • acetaminophen for fever (do not give aspirin)
Request an Appointment

If this is a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1. This form should not be used in an emergency.

Patient Information
Date of Birth:
Contact Information
Appointment Details
Send RequestIf you do not see the specialty you are looking for, please call us at: 617-355-6000.International visitors should call International Health Services at +1-617-355-5209.
Please complete all required fields

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

Thank you.

Your request has been successfully submitted

You will be contacted within 1 business day.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call:

617-355-6000 +1-617-355-6000
close
Find a Doctor
Search by Clinician's Last Name or Specialty:
Select by Location:
Search by First Letter of Clinician's Last Name: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
More optionsSearch
Condition & Treatments
Search for a Condition or Treatment:
Show Items Starting With: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
View allSearch
Visitor Information
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
Close